Field Guide Bike Tour-Day 9/Portland to Salem

June 18th, 2010 by

Too soon, it was time to leave home again and head south to Salem. Nick and I woke early to get a jump on the day. We had a pre-screening meet and greet to attend and needed to get to Salem by 5pm. Having ridden the route once already (on a coastal journey to test our equipment before the tour), we knew what to expect.

It was an easy journey out of NE Portland, taking Prescott up to the I-205 bike/pedestrian only path which takes you all the way to Oregon City. There was one humiliating moment on a hill climb where we were passed by a guy on a skateboard. Being pulled by a dog. While smoking a cigarette (the guy, not the dog). We passed him again on the downhill but it should give you an idea of the kind of loads we are carrying on our bikes. Touring isn’t fast-paced by any stretch of the imagination.

Leaving Portland, most of the small cities registered more as smells than anything else. Clackamas smells like the state fair. Gladstone smells like cigars. And Oregon City smells like covered wagons.

Mary spends most of the day trying to irritate Nick. Successfully so.

Upon reaching Oregon City, we took the long hill up to the top where we were treated to stunning views of the valley. That was when we realized we could’ve used the historic elevator instead (room for bikes!). The elevator is worth a visit if you are in Oregon City. It has an attendant who sits inside at a little desk, for what I’m not sure, as the elevator is free to ride and when you get to the top, the round, windowed tower has holographic images all the way around showing historic photos of Oregon City. As you walk past, the images change to modern ones, showing you what is different now. It was neat to see that much of the original historic buildings are still used today.

View from the top

View 2

Historic elevator

Elevator 2

After that, we were southbound on the 99E, a rather rough highway. There is no shoulder for some of it and at one point you have to hop a retainer wall and ride in a ditch, as the road is just too narrow and the trucks too fast. But it is only a few miles before it turns into a pleasant flat ride through farmlands.

Next adventure; north pole?


Burrito-break, sunscreen and ladybugs later, we arrived in Salem. Loretta of Salem Cinema met us at Clockworks Cafe with some local cyclists (including Eric of Breakfast on Bikes, who helped set up the meeting) for coffee. We talked bike politics and film and soon it was showtime.

Our triumphant heroes arrive in Salem.

Bike tunnel into Salem

High Street Cinema is a great smaller venue and Loretta is working really hard to make a space for microcinema in Salem. If you are going to be there, you should check out their schedule or try to set up a screening. We were glad we did.

Mary hustles some free cookies

Sharing the complex with High Street Cinema

After the screening was over, Nick and I found a hotel to stay for the night and Nick’s Dad joined us for a bite to eat and a much-needed cocktail. We ended up at a bar called The Player’s Lounge which was in our hotel parking lot. It was a divey place for off-track dog race betting and it just happened to be karaoke night (how do we do it?). We immediately put in our songs, despite some exhaustion creeping up on us.

Nick's Dad does Sinatra

Nick’s Dad was in the middle of a particularly fine rendition of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ when a loud howling startled everyone present. A very sauced gentleman in the corner was dueting Nick’s Dad in a sort of tuneless, wordless wail. After the song finished, he stood up and approached our table in a fair imitation of our waitress.

“How was everything? Finished with these?”

We weren’t.

“Let me get them out of your way.”

And he proceeded to remove our dinner.

Than a DJ remix of Lady Gaga’s ‘Just Dance’ came on and the strange gentleman did exactly that.

Matthew Finch, wherever you are, I have found your dance soulmate. This guy busted out some seriously next-level moves, leaping around, striking yoga poses, standing on his head and eventually, beginning to remove his clothes. It seemed like a good time to leave, especially since the KJ was asleep in the corner and hadn’t put up anyones karaoke songs in awhile.

On the way to the door, he approached us once again. He pulled out a large flat wallet and slapped it several times, screaming,

“This is what I’m into these days!”

A pause.

“KING cobra!!”

“I wouldn’t want to run into that guy in a dark alley.”, I replied.

“No! You! Wouldn’t!”.

And with that, we were off to bed.

Salem Player’s Lounge, I noticed you were hiring KJ’s, presumably because yours is asleep on the job. I’d like to take this moment to announce the dedication of my life from here on out to you, Salem Player’s Lounge, if you’ll have me.

My new career path

Just before retiring for the night, my eyes unexpectedly swelled nearly shut. Riding in farmland all day is horrible for those of us who are prone to seasonal allergies. It was disappointing to feel so much pride in all the capabilities of my body so far on our journey and then be slowed by something as silly as hay fever. By the next day, I was covered in itching, horrible hives from head to toe. and I had to spend the next week heavily medicated. Although my eyes would continue to bother me for the rest of the tour, the hives eventually went away.

Swollen-eyed disaster area

Next stop, Eugene. Then, the coast! Thank you, Salem, for a wonderful time.



*Video:player's lounge entertainment